Henri Chettle

Henri Chettle books and biography


Henry Chettle

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Henry Chettle (1564? – 1607?) was an English dramatist and miscellaneous writer of the Elizabethan era.

The son of Robert Chettle, a London dyer, he was apprenticed in 1577 and became a member of the Stationer's Company in 1584, traveling to Cambridge on their behalf in 1588. His career as a printer and author is shadowy. He may have set up some of the tracts printed in response to Martin Marprelate. In 1591, he entered into partnership with William Hoskins and John Danter, two stationers. They published a good many ballads, and some plays, including a surreptitious and botched first quarto of Romeo and Juliet, to which it is suggested Chettle added lines and stage directions.

In 1592 Greene’s Groatsworth of wyt, supposedly the work of the recently deceased, and very popular, Robert Greene, was published, having been entered in the register of the Stationer's Company "at the peril of Henry Chettle". This offended several contemporary writers including Christopher Marlowe, and has a reference, which has been interpreted as a reference to William Shakespeare. Although he denied it in the preface to his Kind Herts Dreame, published soon after, Chettle was widely suspected of having been the author, and modern textual analysis supports this suspicion. It would not be the only occasion when there is reason to believe that Chettle passed off his own work under another author’s name. In contrast when printed plays with which we know Chettle was associated did not identify him as the author, which suggests his reputation was not great.

He seems to have been generally in debt, judging from numerous entries in Philip Henslowe's diary of advances for various purposes, on one occasion (January 17, 1599) to pay his expenses in the Marshalsea prison, on another (March 7, 1603) to get his play out of pawn. He made a greater number of small borrowings from Henslowe than any other person. These and Henslowe’s casual records of them suggest some friendship between them.

Henslowe lists payments to him for thirty-six plays between 1598 and 1603, and he may been involved in as many as fifty plays, although only a dozen seem to be his alone. Chettle had regular association with Henry Porter, John Dekker, and after 1600 with John Day. Of the thirteen plays usually attributed to Chettle's sole authorship only one was printed. This was The Tragedy of Hoffmann: or a Revenge for a Father (played 1602; printed 1631), a share in which Fleay assigns to Thomas Heywood. It has been suggested that this piece was put forward as a rival to Shakespeare's Hamlet.

There is evidence that Chettle contributed to the play The Book of Sir Thomas More (c. 1592–1593); Piers Plainnes Seaven Yeres Prentiship, the story of a fictitious apprenticeship in Crete and Thrace, appeared in 1595. As early as 1598 Francis Meres includes Chettle in his Palladis Tamia as one of the "best for comedy," and between that year and 1603 he wrote or collaborated in some forty-nine pieces.

One of the plays on which Chettle collaborated is listed as The Danish Tragedy, which was probably either identical with Hoffmann or another version of the same story. The Pleasant Comedie of Patient Grissill (1599), in which he collaborated with Thomas Dekker and William Haughton, was reprinted by the Shakespeare Society in 1841. It contains the lyric "Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers," which is probably Dekker's.

In November 1599 Chettle received ten shillings for "mending" the first part of "Robin Hood," - The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntingdon, by Anthony Munday; and in the second part, which followed soon after and was printed in 1601, The Death of Robert, Earle of Huntingdon, he collaborated with Munday. Both plays are printed in Robert Dodsley's Select Collection of Old English Plays (ed. William Hazlitt, vol. viii). In 1602 he seems to have been writing for both Worcester's Company and the Admiral's, despite signing a bond to write exclusively for the latter. In 1603 Chettle published England's Mourning Garment, in which are included some verses alluding to the chief poets of the time.

He died before 1607, when Dekker in his Knight's Conjurer described him joining the poets in Elysium: “in comes Chettle sweating and blowing by reason of his fatness”.


  • Jenkins, H., The life and work of Henry Chettle (1934)
  • Carson, N., A companion to Henslowe's diary (1988)
  • Foakes, R. A., and Rickert, R. T., (eds). Henslowe's Diary (1961)

List of plays

  1. The Valiant Welchman, by Michael Drayton and Henry Chettle, February 1597-8. Printed in 1615.
  2. Earl Goodwin and his Three Sons, Part I, by Michael Drayton, Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, and Robert Wilson, March 1598. Not printed.
  3. Earl Goodwin, Part II, by the same authors, and under the same date in Henslowe's papers. Not printed.
  4. Piers of Exton, by the same authors, same date. Not printed.
  5. Black Batman of the North, Part I, by Henry Chettle, April 1598. Not printed.
  6. Black Batman of the North, Part II, by Henry Chettle and Robert Wilson. Same date. Not printed. It is mentioned in Henslowe's diary in April 1598. No extant copies of the play are known.
  7. The Play of a Woman, by Henry Chettle, July 1598. Not printed.
  8. The Conquest of Brute with the first finding of the Bath, by John Day, Henry Chettle, and John Singer. Same date. Not printed.
  9. Hot Anger Soon Cold, by Henry Porter, Henry Chettle, and Ben Jonson, August 1598. Not printed.
  10. Catiline's Conspiracy, by Robert Wilson and Henry Chettle. Same Date. Not printed.
  11. 'Tis no Deceit to Deceive the Deceiver, by Henry Chettle, September 1598. Not printed.
  12. Aeneas' Revenge, with the Tragedy of Polyphemus, by Henry Chettle, February 1598-9. Not printed.
  13. Agamemnon, by Henry Chettle and Thomas Dekker, June 1599. Not printed. Malone thought that this was the same play as "Troilus and Cressida" before mentioned.
  14. The Stepmother's Tragedy, by Henry Chettle, August 1599. Not printed.
  15. Patient Grissel, by Thomas Dekker, Henry Chettle, and William Haughton, December 1599. Printed in 1603.
  16. The Arcadian Virgin, by Henry Chettle and William Haughton. Same date. Not printed. Mentioned in Philip Henslowe's diary in December 1599.
  17. Damon and Pithias, by Henry Chettle, January 1599-1600. Not printed.
  18. The Seven Wise Masters, by Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, William Haughton, and John Day, March 1599-1600. Not printed.
  19. The Golden Ass and Cupid and Psyche, by Thomas Dekker, John Day, and Henry Chettle, April 1600. Not printed.
  20. The Wooing of Death, by Henry Chettle. Same date. Not printed.
  21. The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, by Henry Chettle and John Day. Same date. Printed in 1659.
  22. All is not Gold that Glisters, by Samuel Rowley and Henry Chettle, March 1600. Not printed.
  23. Sebastian, King of Portugal, by Henry Chettle and Thomas Dekker, April 1601. Not printed.
  24. Cardinal Wolsey, Part I, by Henry Chettle, August 1601. Not printed.
  25. Cardinal Wolsey, Part II, by Henry Chettle, May 1602. Not printed.
  26. The Orphan's Tragedy, by Henry Chettle, September 1601. Not printed.
  27. Too Good to be True, by Henry Chettle, Richard Hathwaye, and Wentworth Smith, November 1601. Not printed.
  28. Love Parts Friendship, by Henry Chettle and Wentworth Smith, May 1602. Not printed.
  29. Tobyas, by Henry Chettle. Same date. Not printed.
  30. Jeptha, by Henry Chettle. Same date. Not printed.
  31. A Danish Tragedy, by Henry Chettle. Same date. Not printed.
  32. Femelanco, by Henry Chettle and ---- Robinson, September 1602. Not printed.
  33. Lady Jane, Part I, by Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood, Wentworth Smith, and John Webster, November 1602. Not printed.
  34. Lady Jane, Part II, by the same authors, Smith excepted. Same date. Not printed.
  35. The London Florentine, Part I, by Thomas Heywood and Henry Chettle, December 1602. Not printed.
  36. The London Florentine, Part II, by the same authors. Same date. Not printed.
  37. The Tragedy of Hoffman, by Henry Chettle. Same date. Printed in 1631.
  38. Jane Shore, by Henry Chettle and John Day, March 1602-3. Not printed.


  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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